Billie And Finneas Eilish And Incest
A coupla weeks ago I began considering writing about incest in music, not incestuous songs but incestuous layers, specifically the way in which Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas seemed too close for a lover and rather two parts of a whole in ways that siblings most often aren’t. Somebody told me not everyone was about sex, and my response was that sex is the primary driving force of every living thing. Her terse response “no” was an example of the problems of living in a world where real life becomes fa rumor. We weren’t discussing the (limited) merits of the new Lil Baby recording, we were discussing something well beyond debate: to deny it is to misunderstand the species and also everything that surrounds it.
In concert, when Billie and Finneas climb on to a flying bed together, the sister singing to us, and also to her brother, the relationship becomes fraught with undertones. A couple of months after I caught that at Radio City Music Hall, (here) Billie dropped her tribute to her big brother “Everything I Wanted”. Billie said of the song: “I mean, the message behind the song is like… my brother is my best friend, and I have these dreams and these things happen, and no matter what happens, he’s gonna always be there for me and it’s the same the other way around.”
The chorus goes:
“And you say, “As long as I’m here, no one can hurt you
Don’t wanna lie here, but you can learn to
If I could change the way that you see yourself
You wouldn’t wonder why you’re here, they don’t deserve you”
If you have ever read Ian McEwan’s “The Cement Garden,” about sibling incest, you’ll recognize the words or at least the sentiment. In “The Cement Garden” the parents of a family, lead by a girl and her brother die, and the sister and brother hide the bodies so they can remain together without the interference of the police. For the Eilish’s the connection is similar and familial, if all that happened was that the children had been risen in practical, home-taught, isolation they would be close but if you add that they compose and record music together, that Billie is so famous her fears that nobody except her brother would care if she killed herself, are not entirely unfounded, the bond is huge. While the urge to recoil from incest is self-evident, there is a huge difference between a father climbing into bed with his eight-year-old daughter, and an intense emotional connection between siblings of similar age plus latent sexual attraction.
To complain, or worry, or denigrate any form of sexual desire is ridiculous. What would you have the person do about it, precisely? For men, the penis wants what the penis wants, right or wrong doesn’t enter into the equation at all. Right or wrong only becomes a factor when the question becomes, what do we do about it? Being sexually attracted to babies puts into serious doubt someone’s mental health, but if the person doesn’t act upon it, that is all it puts into question, thoughts are neither moral nor immoral, only actions are. The one thing that the Bible got entirely wrong was the concept that the thought is as bad as the deed, not only can you think anything you want but also, who can stop you? How?
Of all these sins, if Billie and Finneas are attracted to each other, on whatever level, there is no sinner and there is no sin. Intense love, from that Freudian Oedipal and Electra complexes, to your brother dating a girl who looks very much like you (Finneas girlfriend is a Billie lookalike).
Incest, especially if babies are born from incestuous relationships, are not like anything else. But if consenting adults choose to have sex, what does it matter if babies are not involved (and to be somewhat cavalier, that’s what abortion is for). Much like religion, you can’t be enlightened to other sexual projects if you live in a closed society. Incest becomes inevitable in societies like, say, Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to be in the social company of men who are not part of the family. Who are they meant to find attractive?
Billie and Finneas would not merely deny it, even to themselves, and certainly to the world, but that doesn’t make them self-aware. If the only person you truly love, who will absolutely take care of you, is your big brother, the response would be deep and whether latent, unconscious, or any variation, it would be immovable. You would write songs about it. You’d climb onto a flying bed about it.
We aren’t discussing the drug addled Papa John and M<Mackenzie Phillips, two adults in search of a lie, we are discussing how coming together as a musical moment in a world where fame is a nightmare of disbelief in love and friendship, we aren’t discussing Serge Gainsbourg and his teenage daughter Charlotte’s Lemon Incest (here), we are discussing the natural urge to close ranks